9 Virtues Blog

The 4 Quadrants of Administrative Effectiveness

by Rob Jenkins


First, a confession: I ripped off the basic premise for this column from an essay called "The Right Kind of Nothing," by Michael C. Munger, a professor of political science and chair of the department at Duke University.

Munger argued in that January 2010 column that the best administrators are those who accept a high degree of responsibility for what goes on in their territory but don't feel the need to control everything. They know, that is, when to do "the right kind of nothing."

After 18 years as a midlevel administrator at three different community colleges, I heartily concur. And, having obtained Munger's gracious permission, I would like to expand on his ideas. In doing so here, I borrow also from Stephen R. Covey, who in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, designs a memorable matrix around the concepts of "important" and "urgent." By placing those two concepts on X and Y axes, he creates four quadrants: urgent but not important, important but not urgent, both urgent and important, and neither urgent nor important.

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